Motivating Healthy Lifestyles Among Older Adults

By Dianne Goyco

It’s not every day I get to work directly with the older adults, but when I do it’s always an inspiring moment. Since I started working at the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), I have been asked the same question: “What do you do?” While I do a little bit of everything, my main focus has been creating a Health, Fitness and Wellness curriculum tailored for Hispanic older adults. I have been working on this project for over a year and I can finally say that it has been tested!

Last week, NHCOA pilot tested the Move, Exercise and Nourish: A Wellness Program with the seniors at NHCOA’s housing facility, Casa Iris, in Washington, D.C. When our President, Dr. Yanira Cruz, approached me saying it was time to launch and test this program I was both thrilled and anxious. Thrilled that all the hours and hard work that I had put into this project would finally be accessible to the community and anxious about how the community would react to the program. With mixed emotions and help from everyone at NHCOA, we designed the two-day training, packed with activities and information, keeping in mind that it had to be age sensitive as well as culturally and linguistically appropriate.

The two day training consisted of interactive presentations about physical activity, nutrition and wellbeing. In addition, the participants had the opportunity to practice exercise and play a game of Bingo.

The launch of “Move, Exercise and Nourish: A Wellness Program” was an exciting and rewarding experience. Some of the takeaways included:

1. Older adults love to participate in these types of activities: Seniors from Casa Iris and the community were thrilled about our presence and welcomed us with open arms. On more than one occasion, they asked us when we were coming back.

2. Seniors are eager to learn. While I am from a different generation, they received me with great enthusiasm. They are enthusiastic to learn about important topics, especially those that concern their health and wellbeing.

4. When treated with cultural and age sensitivity, seniors enthusiastically engage in different conversations: The Wellness Program we are implementing includes topics from eating healthy and exercising to sexual health and HIV prevention. Although there is a stigma associated with some of these topics, seniors participated in the discussions because they were brought in a cultural and age sensitive manner.

5. Intergenerational exchange is effective: Although I am from a different generation, seniors were very attentive and interactive during the training. Moreover, they not only learned from what I was presenting, but also contributed with their wisdom and life experience to the discussion. While I was giving them information on fitness, nutrition and wellbeing, they were teaching me about their different experiences in life. It’s one thing to read about the wisdom of older adults and another to actually experience it.

Conducting trainings is not my typical day at the office, but working with the older adults was an exciting and fulfilling experience that reminded me of the wisdom and value of our older adults. I had an amazing time with the seniors and would love the opportunity to give the training to more people and interact with them.

Join NHCOA in its effort to motivate older adults to Move, Exercise and Nourish in order to enjoy their golden years!